Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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PIATT, Jacob Wykoff, lawyer, born in Kentucky, 29 March, 1801; died in Cincinnati, Ohio, 29 May, 1857. He attained note at the bar in Cincinnati, and was the originator of the paid fire department, now in general use. He became so unpopular to the bulk of the community in his vigorous and solitary opposition ior years to the volunteer system that it was found necessary for the police to guard him to and from the council chamber, where he continually spoke against it. He was at one time mobbed, and burned in effigy before his own door by the volunteer firemen and their supporters. When the Latta steam fire-engine was invented in Cincinnati, a committee was appointed by the city council, with Mr. Piatt as chairman, to devise means for its use. He insisted on placing Miles Greenwood (q. v.), a prominent mechanic and founder, who had long been at the head of the volunteer fire department, in charge of the new machine, for the sake, no doubt, of producing harmony in the then divided state of public opinion. Mr. Greenwood accepted the office, and, through his personal popularity and practical knowledge of mechanics, made the machine a success, thus acquiring the reputation of originating the paid department. But to Mr. Piatt is due the credit of having generated the system by years of advocacy, in the face of violent opposition, as a member of the city council.--His brother, Donn, journalist, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 29 June, 1819, was educated at the Athenaeum (now St. Xavier college), but left suddenly in consequence of a personal encounter with the professor of mathematics. He then studied law, and in 1851 was appointed judge of the court of common pleas of Hamilton county. At the end of his term he was made secretary of legation at Paris, under John Y. Mason, during Pierce's administration. When the minister was attacked with apoplexy, Piatt served as charge d'affaires for nearly a year. On his return home he engaged actively in the presidential canvass in behalf of John C. Fremont. During part of the civil war he was on the staff of General Robert C. Schenck. Having been sent to observe the situation at Winchester previous to Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, he, on his own motion, ordered General Robert H. Milroy to evacuate the town and fall back on Harper's Ferry. The order was countermanded by General Halleck, and three days afterward Milroy, surrounded by the Confederate advance, was forced to cut his way out, with a loss of 2,300 prisoners. When General William Birney was sent to Maryland to recruit colored regiments, he was chief of staff, with the rank of colonel. After the war he became Washington correspondent of the Cincinnati " Commercial." He subsequently founded and edited the Washington "Capital" for two years, making it so odious to many Republican officials that, during the presidential controversy of 1876, he was in-dieted for conspiring to disturb the peace of the country. Since then he has devoted himself to farming and literature at his residence, Mac-o-chee, Ohio. In all his writings he is apt to take a peculiar and generally unpopular view of his subjects. He has published a sharply critical work, "Memoirs of the Men who saved the Union" (Chicago, 1887).--His wife, Louise Kirby, author, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 25 November, 1826; died 2 October, 1864, possessed rare intelligence and culture, and became widely known for her graceful, spirited, pointed newspaper correspondence. She accompanied her husband to Europe when he was appointed secretary of legation, and contributed letters to the " Home Journal," which were afterward published in book-form as "Bell Smith Abroad" (New York, 1855).--Donn's brother, Abram Sanders, farmer, born in Cincinnati, Ohio, 2 May, 1821, was educated at the Athenaeum and at the Kinmont academy in his native city, after which he engaged in agricultural pursuits in the Macacheek valley, which occupation he has followed with but few interruptions. In 1846 he devoted some time to the study of law, and edited the " Macacheek Press," a journal that he established. At the beginning of the civil war he was active in raising volunteers for the National service, and was commissioned colonel of the 13th Ohio regiment. At the expiration of his three months' service he raised at his own expense the first zouave regiment of Ohio. of which he became colonel. After the first regiment had been raised, applications to join continued to be received, and he began the organization of the second, with the intention of forming a brigade, but before it was completed he was ordered to the front and made brigadier-general of volunteers on 28 February. 1862. In April, 1863, he resigned his commission, and subsequently returned to his farm. General Piatt has given attention to politics. On the close of the war he became affiliated with the National greenback labor party, and he has been its candidate for the offices of lieutenant-governor and governor. He is a member of the Patrons of Husbandry, and served that organization for two years as its state lecturer. General Piatt is also known by his poetry, which has appeared in his own journal and in the Cincinnati " Commercial."
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